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Demonizing children does not improve public safety

01 May 2014 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist

John2Putting destructive labels on a child accomplishes nothing positive for the child, his/her family or our communities.

Op Ed published in the Deseret News, by John Mejia, ACLU of Utah Legal Director.

Recently, the Deseret News blared this headline: “Gangs still prevalent in Utah with members as young as 5, police say,” (April 24). The related article quoted a police detective who, speaking at the recent Utah Gang Conference, reported seeing “documented gang members” among our kindergarteners.

I found this statement distressing — but not for the reasons you might think. As an ACLU attorney, a near-lifelong Utahn and a Latino father of two young children, I was distressed that responsible public servants would ever label and stigmatize a child in this way.